Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Waiting for love

You see that boy on the left--that's me. You see that girl sitting next to him--I wish I knew someone like her. All my life, since as long back as I can remember--I've always wanted something akin to having what's being portrayed in that photograph. A lot of people have told me it's not possible (it's the stuff that dreams/Hollywood movies are made of). It's something I've told myself repeatedly, too, to no avail unfortunately.

Believe me--it's not that I'm stupid; it's just that I'd rather believe in the notion of true love however impractical it may seem. Someday, someway, maybe I might meet that special someone who had been searching for the same thing that I had all my life. And wouldn't we make a great couple... who knows? Until then, I'm going to keep my eyes open. Yeah, that's what I've decided after posting this thread on AskMe. I'm going to become much more proactive in searching for my soul-mate, even if it means forgoing some of the old traditional aspects of falling in love--like running into each other somewhere; becoming friends first, and then slowly realizing that we were meant to be much more than that; or rescuing a damsel in distress and falling hopelessly in love (I don't know why the last scenario sounded so appealing to me when I was a teenager). Now, I wonder--what if she's not the one I'm searching for--why would I want to marry her? Maybe I was just supposed to save her--period! Ah, youth--what a perplexing stage of life.

So, yes--having decided to be much more forthright in my approach--I decided to do something that I absolutely--never--ever imagined myself doing: I logged onto a couple of matrimonial sites, and became a member. How has this changed my perception of what I thought love was all about--well, for one thing--it's a lot more visual than I thought it would ever be. The first thing that you're hit with when you log onto one of these sites are the profiles, and with the profiles, the accompanying photographs. Of course, if the person has chosen not to have posted a photograph, then you obviously wonder "why"? What's wrong. Not that there has to be anything wrong, but you're just curious.

Especially if you're one of those people who wants someone with a cheerful face, someone who when you see your whole day lights up, and you want to do something special for them. And what I've realized from my own experience is that--it's what you've got on the inside that will automatically show up on the outside as well. So if a person has got a vibrant, down-to-earth, soulful personality--it's probably a true reflection of the type of person she is on the inside. Unless she's a sociopath, and there's very little hope for me to be weeding out those in any case.

I wish I could write some more about the wonderful ladies that I've met so far on these wonderful sites, and by met I mean--have gotten the chance to read their profiles, gotten to know a little bit about their lives and aspirations, and what kind of person they're looking for. But they might not approve, so I'll leave it at that.

Except for this: a gentleman who appears to be the "Parent/Guardian" of a prospective bride showed interest in me in a rather peculiar way, by first criticizing my profile because I was honest enough to write about my relationship with my Parents (even though I mentioned how much it's improved since then) and suggesting that the mistake that they made was to have had me in the first place, or at least that's what I gather from what he was saying. After which, he goes on to introduce his daughter and tell me how "innocent and god fearing she is". God, why do people have to call their children "innocent". Man, I DON'T WANT AN INNOCENT WIFE. I want a wife with claws, who can fight for herself, goddammit. So, it's no surprise that I've left his mail unanswered. I thought blocking him would be taking things a bit too far, but if he gives me any more advice about how I should write my own frickin' profile, I'll delete his ass.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tyres for toys

I took my mom to the tailor's yesterday. She works out of the house of someone who is on the look-out for a suitable boy for her daughter. Remember, this is India--the land of Arranged Marriages, so don't be so shocked when you read such stuff; it's more of the norm over here. My mother, in order to save fuel in the car, said we'd go on my bike, or rather my dad's bike, which is a scooter that I like to call a bike because scooter somehow doesn't seem right. Anyway, so it's 4:15 PM and we have about 45 minutes left until my father has to leave for the shop (that's what we do--we're shop-owners, or at least we own the one shop, which is a Stationery that my pop opened after he retired and came back here).

So, where was I--ah yes, the marriage proposal that my mom had gotten (she's very heavily involved in this sort of stuff these days, and is constantly reminding me that I have to settle down as well before I hit 30; I'm more like--we'll see--35 sounds like a much better age for me).

I park the bike (scooter) outside the house, my mom gets off and walks into the tailor's. They both greet each other and my mom sits down with the envelope that contains the prospective bridegrooms bio-data (a must-have over here for anyone willing to wed his son off to someones daughter), with a picture inside (another must-have). Especially for the girls, because the guy's side of the family always have many demands.

A couple of minutes later, a lady dressed in a white सलवार खामीज़ stepped down from the first floor, along with a very cute little girl, followed by an even cuter little kitten, and all three of them headed for the tailor's suite to meet my mom. (They must've chatted for about half an hour or less, even though my mom had said that she would just take a minute or two, and I thought I'd keep myself busy looking at this kid who was playing on the side of the road with a tyre that he had found.)

He must've been no older than 5 or 6, a boy who had no business being on the side of the road, playing with a ratty piece of used rubber. The boy was dressed in a pair of dirty shorts and an old T-shirt, and was running back and forth with the tyre, pushing it with a stick, trying not to let it fall and at the same time maintaining its balance. This is a very popular game here amongst kids who do not have any other means to entertain themselves with, except what they find on the streets.

I observed him for a few minutes, and locked onto the smile that he had while he was playing his game. I think there was no other kid on earth who could've been happier at that moment than he was. The game lasted for a few minutes more before the tyre was hit a little too hard, and ended up in the middle of the road, right between the traffic. It was odd the place where it chose to settle down, plopping right in the centre of where the median should've been, but since this is India we don't have too many of those on our side streets. (I suppose you don't have them abroad either so it would be unfair of me to criticize India alone for it.)

Anyway, the traffic continued to whiz by, the people walked past without a care in the world, and the little kid was hiding behind a tree, wondering what would happen to his toy now, too afraid to venture after it into the middle of the road. It was then that I noticed the Sugar Cane seller at the far end of the street, with his Sugar Cane cart and machine, who was no doubt the father of the boy by the way he was looking at the tyre, figuring out how he would get it and still continue to do his work. His wife, noticing his apprehension, hurried onto the road and grabbed the tyre as quickly as she could and turned around to head back to safety, returning the tyre to her son, and listening to the worried admonishments of her husband by running off like that.

The kid, happy to be reunited with his toy, and not wanting to risk another mishap, decided to give the tyre a break, and went and hid it behind a road sign, along with his stick, careful to cover them both up with some cardboard pieces, if in case there was anyone around who'd be interested in swiping his loot.

On his way past me, we both looked at each other, but neither one wanted to acknowledge the others presence--I, for fear that he might think I thought poorly of him for playing on the road (or even worse), maybe even thinking that I was trying to steal his tyre--and him not wanting to let me know that he had just exposed his secret hiding place to this stranger. We both just looked at each other and almost gave each other a smile, like the other knew what he was thinking about.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bang, bang, bang!

That's the sound that usually reverberates through the house when my mom is in the bathroom washing the clothes. The washing machine that we have is an old Toshiba which we had got brand new when we were shifting house from Saudi Arabia to India (the one pictured in the photograph isn't the one that we have though, since ours was bought in 1993, so is a much older model than this one). But back then, we were happy to have her in addition to our fully automatic other one (I forget the name of the company it belonged to), and as luck would have it, the fully automatic one got damaged in the move and we had to solely rely on the semi automatic Toshiba one. Man, all this talk about fully automatic and semi automatic makes me sound like a hit man. (I wonder if my blog is being scanned by the Homeland Security Department and if those words pop up on their scanner... hmmm, might be interesting. Hey, you spooks out there--eat my shorts!)

So, yeah--the machine. Well, she was a beaut at first. Always gave us the best she could, but then, later on, her age started to show, and slowly but surely, she started to give way. Now, we're at that point where my mother just exclaimed while she was doing today's load: Ya Allah! I feel like taking this thing to the roof and throwing her off of the terrace.

You see, the problem is that once you're done with the washing of the clothes, which is the easy part, you're then left with the drying, and that's where the trouble comes in. The spinner just won't spin, unless and until you shake it, and jolt it, and bang on it a couple of times for it to comply. And this whole process can last anywhere between a minute or two (if you're lucky) to sometimes as long as 10 minutes (or maybe even more). It's exasperating, and sends my mom up the wall, especially when she has to spend the whole day cleaning up the house, and then preparing food, and then on top of that, washing clothes--it's a bit much, isn't it.

I could do my own clothes, or the whole load if I wanted to, but I'm just such a pampered ass that way. Mother's always done the laundry, and the cooking, and the whole work around the house that I haven't had to lift a finger. Of course, I try and do something once-in-awhile. Like lately--I've been taking out the trash every day (yeah--I know--big deal; but it is for me, since I hardly used to step out of the house up until a couple of months ago, ever since I've started coming out of my depression). Then there's of course the dishes which I wash whenever I put in my own in the basin. And the filling of the jugs and the selling of the newspapers and all the leftover paper trash. And sometimes, when I'm feeling uber-confident--I even dig in and participate in chores around the house like getting someone to fix the broken window in the hall, and going on a two-hour long search for the Refrigerator repair guy whose shop is in the old part of the city (whose name no-one has even heard of, but not wanting to give up--I stick to it, and after an hour of searching and asking and hounding people--I finally find it). Only to discover that he doesn't make any trips out to my area anymore because it's too far away (you're telling me bud) but I do get the number of the people who do handle the work in our area so I just might be lucky enough to get someone to come over and have a look at our 500 litre, double door, over 20 year old antique of a Kelvinator fridge (whose spare parts I'm not even sure if they're making anymore).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Déjà vu

Funny how things come full circle. It's like that saying: what goes around--comes around (especially in matters of life). I'm talking about relationships here, specifically, the one that we (me and my sisters) share with my mum.

When I was a teenager, and going through hell--there was a time when I was sure that my mother was trying to be the worst possible parent that she could be towards me, and thus, I tried to be the worst possible son that I could be towards her. Of course, I never thought it as such; I wasn't being a jerk, it was she who had the problem.

Now, ten years down the line, things are so much more clear. I have two sisters--one who's two years younger to me (who's already happily married, settled, and is living out her dreams), and the other, who is still in the wings, desperately trying to carve out a space for herself in this world. She's eight years younger to me, and has just completed her graduation (Bachelors) and is going in for her Masters right now, after which she plans to go abroad for further studies (a bone of much contention in my house, between my mother and her).

Lately though, I've noticed a rift growing between them, something that I thought would not be possible. This girl was the same girl who would hold onto my mother's दुपट्टा when she was a tot of about 5 or 6, and would follow her around everywhere, screaming and spitting on anyone who would dare come near her to even suggest that she give her mother a break, and maybe sit with them. No, that was asking for the impossible.

When she'd grown a little more, she would still prefer to sleep with her mother (in-between her father and her, in their bedroom), and would keep one of her legs on my mother's back as a sort of a safety mechanism, to know that mum was there and wasn't going to leave her and go anywhere in the middle of the night. Dad though, always ended up getting the short end of the stick: a sore back from all the kicks that my sister would deliver in the midst of her sleep.

And then, one day, almost instinctively, she no longer felt the need to hold onto mom's दुपट्टा any longer. My little sister had grown up, or was in the process of at least, and I couldn't believe it. The nerve! How could she--when I had tried to do the same and was quashed so vehemently. How did she think she could take after my other sister like that, and so soon, especially since I was trying so hard to do it for myself. Where was my turn goddammit! And, wouldn't you know it--my mother and she had become as thick as thieves just like her and my other sister had, and I was left outside looking in once again. I wondered what it was that I would have to do to be accepted by these group of women. Did I have to become a woman myself, and if I did--I was prepared to--if it would only mean I could get the emotional support and understanding I so desperately needed.

This union lasted for a long time. Of course, they did have their ups and downs, which I would try and use to my own advantage (being the dog without a master, running to whomever called him first), and tried to be the good son and the caring brother which I thought I could be, but was always left with a sense of bitter distaste in my mouth when it was all over, and I was once again left to my own devices, neglected--stranded.

It took me a long, long while to recover from this bruising, and get back on my feet again, and even though I've not "completely" gotten there yet, I am on my way. But, there's been a slight twist in the tale. You see, now my sister has reached the age where she has become the rebel, and my mom and her are the ones who aren't getting along all that well. These two women who were practically inseparable a year or two ago are now at each others' wits. I see a lot of myself in my sister--that desire for self-recognition, to find out what she wants to do with this life, with whom she wants to be associated--and this of course has caused my mother great anxiety. She is worried, like she always has been, and for the first time I can see where it is that she was coming from for all these years. I still don't have the same perception of Parenthood that my parents do, and never will, but at least I've come to peace with understanding my father and mother a little better, and not judging them too harshly. They are my parents after all, and if I don't look out for them--who will.

So, I do the best I can, to try and balance out any of the friction between my mom and sis; this means always being the one who opens and closes the door and gate for her lately whenever she's taking the car out somewhere. Being the one who's the go-between between her and my mom to ask her what she wants for breakfast or tell her that lunch or dinner is ready. And, sometimes keeping a check to see why she isn't home in time, as my mother will call out to me from downstairs and ask me to give her a buzz and remind her what time it is.

My mom reads my blog. I've given her permission to, because I trust her enough that she'll respect my decision to write whatever I want, and even if she doesn't, I feel that now she and I are independent enough to respect our boundaries, as thin as they maybe. I don't feel the need to seek her approval at any cost, even if it means at my own detriment, and I think this is a good thing. I only wish, that when she does sit down to read this, that she realizes what a beautiful daughter she has (which I know she knows in her heart) and forgives her for whatever misgivings she's had with her. On the other hand, I can always ask my sis to read the blog and maybe make amends towards my mom instead. Or maybe ask both of them to give this a read? Well, this thing is becoming quite the family affair, isn't it. (That's India for you folks: we somehow manage to get our families into everything. Even our blogs which are supposed to be about India. Hope you don't mind too much. Thanks for listening. You're a wonderful audience.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Alright, so I'm big enough to admit that I was dead wrong about the newest incarnation of Cricket that has invaded the Subcontinent, and is sweeping the world right now. You haven't heard? Well, blimey, mate! Where've you been??? It's called Twenty20 (not to be confused with Twenty-Twenty, or 20/20) and is basically the same version of the game played in a limited over series of 20 overs apiece. Now, if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, then I'd suggest you better go over here and take a look at the post that I made on Mefi concerning this. There's a lot of basic stuff that you can gleam from there, and it'll give you a basic understanding of the game. Especially if you're an American who's into Baseball; apparently, Cricket is the richer "cousin" of America's Greatest Pastime. Who knew??? And if anyone of you yanks out there is getting perturbed by the comparison that I just made then you ought to know it wasn't my words that I was quoting, but one of the Cricket loving Gentlemen in the post that I just mentioned.

Anyway, what I was trying to tell you was that in the heat of the moment, I'd completely written off Twenty20 Cricket as just a fad, as a strange and absurd phenomenon that would die down in the heat of the night. And that all of this hoopla that was being made about it was all for nothing. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong.

Not only has the game launched itself marvelously amongst the people of India (and no doubt the world, or those who are lucky enough to get a chance to watch it; one of my friends says that in Australia it's on Cable and he doesn't have access to it, so probably not everyone is going to get the chance to see it live, on-screen). Which is also a problem for the Cricket crazy fans wanting to attend the matches in the Stadiums, but aren't able to because of the exorbitant (by India's standards at least) prices.

Another new (if a bit bizarre) phenomena is the introduction of Cheerleaders (yes, you heard me right--those pretty dancing girls with the pom-poms) doing their stuff in the middle of a Cricket Match. In the middle of a Cricket Match I hear you say!? Well, this isn't your Daddy's or Grand-daddy's old sport now is it? No, this is a whole new ballgame, in which the team management will do anything to lure in the crowds any way they can--marketing, advertising, and even a little bit of skin if that'll get people to fill the seats, which I doubt there is a need for, but perhaps it just adds to the atmosphere of the electricity charged format of the game).

Of course, I have saved the best for the last: what is truly enjoyable about this new era in Cricketing history, is that we have seen nothing like it. Up until now, the only two teams which would face off against one another would be the ones representing their national colours. All the players would be of a single nation, and thus we'd have all the rivalries that would obviously be associated with it. Who can forget the kind of tension that unfolds whenever Pakistan is poised to play a match against India, or England against Australia? These are what true die hards of the sport live for. But now, things have taken a dramatic change (and for the better I think)! What we are seeing today is the union of players from across the globe. Australians, playing alongside Indians, who are playing alongside Pakistanis. Members of fraternities which would not even thnink twice before making sure that you were sent home packing are now playing with those same players that they were not long ago pitted against, and are cherishing it in a way that has rarely been seen before. How often do you see Shane Warne hugging his Indian teammate for the catch that he's just made, of another Indian to boot.

Who would've thought this day would ever come.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Calvin and Hobbes # 1






(via The Hindu)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Walk like a man

When I was little, I'd try and walk in step with my father whenever I could. So if he'd put his right foot forward, then I'd put my right foot forward as well, and we'd walk in tandem. We didn't own a car back then so I had to do a lot of walking with him, and I always remember doing this, sometimes subconsciously. Of course, later on, when I hit my teens, I would try and do anything to differentiate myself from my parents, but back then--I wanted to be just like my father.

Another thing that I remember mimicking was to never gaze at a woman; my father would always walk with his head straight, eyes in front, and would never let his sight shift from that angle. I, being of a much more shy nature, preferred walking with my head cast down, eyes to the ground (especially when a woman or a girl would pass us by).

This became increasingly hard to do once we moved from Saudi Arabia to India, and I had to dodge the increasing number of people, animals, and all other manner of things on my journey into the outside world. Also, for the first time in my life, since 2nd or 3rd grade, I was once again surrounded by girls in my class, who were curious to know more about the foreigner who had come from abroad. Especially the reason why he always walked with his head tilted towards the ground. Some of them were even bold enough to ask me if they thought there was something wrong with them, which made me not want to make eye-contact, causing me even more humiliation than I already felt. I tried to break the habit, but it wasn't easy.

That same year, a girl named Sarwani from Japan had joined our class, and had become the talk of the entire school, and as misfortune would have it, was chosen to sit next to me. I had not sat next to a girl for most of my pre-pubescent life, and to be thrown into such a situation was most uncomfortable. My peers, noticing this uneasiness, saw their chance and jumped on it. I think I lasted a day before I went to the class teacher and complained. It was all I could do before breaking down into tears. My teacher laughed it off and said that that's exactly why she wanted her to sit next to me. I did not understand.

The following day, I'd decided that I wasn't going to take things lying down, and partitioned the desk into half, making it clear that all of Sarwani's things should stay on her side of the border, and that at no time should it cross over to mine, lest she'd have to bring her arm into my space and fuel any more controversy. I also asked her to keep the talking to a minimum, or not at all if possible. She was amused. The plan would've succeeded if it weren't for the jerk of a Chemistry substitute sir that we'd gotten for one of our classes one day, who was looking at Sarwani in a rather peculiar way. I didn't notice it at first, but when she turned around I saw that the top button of her shirt had come undone and was hanging precariously low. I had no intention of saying anything to her, but I couldn't keep my mouth shut, so, managed to give her a signal. She looked down, quickly buttoned her top, and gave me a gracious "thank you". It was sort of hard not to talk to her after that.

It's been 15 years since then and even now I am not completely over it. The inhibitions of looking at a woman still linger, and these days when I go for my morning walks and see all the beautiful, fresh faces in front of me (as discreetly as I possibly can), I am still as lost as ever as to what it is I'm supposed to do. I wonder if any of the girls have the same problem, which would indirectly mean that they've taken notice of me as well, and perhaps that would be a little reassuring.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Milkmaid

A couple of weeks ago, I'd taken a few photographs of some packets of milk by the side of the road, lying in a bag, in crates, stacked one on top of another. After taking the photos, I asked the vendor, who happened to be a woman if I could take one of hers as well, to which her response was a quick and bashful "अम्मा नक्को!" I smiled, and didn't say a word. The woman was kind enough to have allowed me to take the pictures in the first place, as I'd approached a restaurant the day before and asked them if I could take a photograph of all the delicious dishes that were displayed in their serving area, so that I could post it on the web and show it to my American friends (and maybe when they visit here sometime, they'd like to come to their establishment and try them out), to which the reply I'd gotten was: I'm sorry, but it's against our policy to allow people to take photographs of the food we serve.

Figures. It's always the rich who have hangups like this; the poor almost never have such kinds of qualms. They're quite open-minded and are glad to oblige in any way they can. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they've lived a life of perpetual hardship and have learnt how to make compromises along the way. Whereas the rich are as intractable as ever, maybe even more so with every passing year.

So, anyway, a few days after I'd taken the photographs, and mentioned to the lady that I'd already posted it up on the web, and that her milk was now world famous, she kind of hesitatingly asked me--do you think I could get a copy of those photographs to keep for myself? I didn't know what to say, so I said sure. I mean, I'd barely just learnt how to operate the digital camera that my sister had gotten for me, and was still a novice at uploading pictures to my flickr account, so this would definitely pose a problem which I wasn't too sure I'd be able to tackle. A few more days passed, and every day I went to buy milk from the milk-woman, she kind of gave me that look: so, are you going to give me those pictures today, and I would wear my "I'm sorry, but I don't have them today either" expression, which is how it went for the next couple of days, until I stopped going to her completely out of guilt. I would've given her the photographs if I'd only known how to get them developed, but I hadn't a clue, and I didn't want to tell her that and make it sound as if I was trying to stiff her. Nor did I want to give her printouts of the photographs, which would've been easily available at the shops outside my house, as I wanted to give her something a bit more substantial than that.

So I waited, and waited, and waited, for the right opportunity to present itself, and it finally came in the guise of my sister going to one of her friends' place to complete her Project Work, as she needed to download some of her photographs from the net. I saw my chance, and asked her to get mine developed as well. She said sure, and left.

A day passed, and then another, and then another, and then, finally, as I was about to give up hope for the time being, my sister decided to go back to her friend's house to finish the Project Work, and I reminded her to get the photographs. She said she would. Later, that evening, as I was picking her up, I asked her if she'd gotten them, and she handed them to me. I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait to give them to the milkmaid the next morning. She usually gets up at around 4 AM, to relieve her husband, who's been awake since 12 o'clock, waiting for the milk van to deliver the milk. Once everything's unloaded, he sits with it on the sidewalk, making sure it's safe, and then by the time it's 6, everyone starts to come out of their houses to buy their daily quota of lactose. That's when I usually go as well, and today I was more than happy to make the morning trek towards her. She looked as happy as ever, and gave me a smile when she saw me; it'd been a long time since we'd seen each other. I said hello and greeted her husband as well, and then proceeded to give the envelope which contained the photographs to him, just in case he'd mind if I were to have offered them to his wife first, without his permission (you can never be too careful). He looked at them for a second and didn't know quite what to think, at which point his wife came over and saw the photos and told him that those were his crates that he was staring at. He smiled, as did his wife, and I told them both that I was sorry it took such a long while, and then made up a silly excuse/lie that the guy who I'd given the photographs to have it developed had closed his shop for a couple of days (!). They didn't seem to care. I went ahead as usual and purchased my milk, and as I was leaving I put the photos back in the envelope, and the envelope in the plastic bag that I'd gotten (it had rained the night before) and kept it on top of one of her bags, and told her that I was leaving it there. I don't think she understood, because as I was leaving she called out to me and said that I was forgetting the photographs, to which her husband and I both replied in unison: they're for you!

She grinned.